Finishing the translation and handing it over to the client ahead of the deadline is quite important. But that is not everything. You should also keep your outstandings within a minimum ceiling. You should know how to collect money fast. Now I will deal with this very important aspect.
You have decided that this is your life. You have to get this money to buy all your necessities. As in any profession, outstandings mean an interest-free loan. You cannot afford to give that. No need to feel finicky about asking for your money. A translator is usually an introvert person. That is why he chose this profession, where he has more dealings with books and papers. His work too is a solitary one and he spends hours slogging at his computer. I spend nearly 15 hours per day at the computer, so much so the little woman at home is convinced that I am indulging myself by playing some video games. That is another story.
You should show toughness in collecting your bills. Otherwise you are doomed.
Rule 1: When new clients are involved, try to get some upfront payment. In my earlier posts I have talked about clients, who would bluff their way to getting low rates by promising heavy jobs in future.
But there are really clients, who give a lot of work. One among was this piston plant near Delhi, the capital of India. I used to go for onsite translation at a fixed hourly rate. This I did for months together. One day of eight hour shift was priced at some good amount. I used to present my bill every 10 days and continue working. At the same time I will monitor the movement of the bill through various departments. This will take a few days. By that the next bill will go and so on. This means that after a few days, I will start getting paid at regular intervals. Wherever I go, I would be cordial to one and all. Once I get payment, I will thank all concerned, including the lowest ranking staff. This is very important. You shall not ignore anyone and walk off with the check. A few friendly thank-you-gestures will never hurt. Many became my personal friends and saw to the smooth movement of my cases.
Now for the past 6 years I am in Chennai. Here too I behave in the same manner. Here the new clients are usually asked to pay some advance, especially if individual persons come as clients. Some may demur at trusting me with the advance money. I will tell them that in that case, they may pay after seeing the work. Once I finish the translation, I will call them to my house and show the entire file in my screen. Then they will pay. I will immediately email the work to their id. Then I will invite them to open their mail in my computer and check whether it has come to their inbox. That's all.
Suppose he is unable to come. No problem. First I will email the job to one of my other ids. Then I will go to his place and get the money and open my mail inbox in his computer and from their forward the file to his inbox. After all, where there is a will, there is a way.
But for established clients, I send the translation by email and send the bill by courier. In that case, make sure at the earliest that the courier has reached there. Then it is a question of gentle persuasion. Here too, once you get the check, thank everyone concerned by telephone immediately. Be cordial at all times.
That's all there to that. In my past 32 years of operation, the number of times I have been deprived of payment can be counted on my fingers.
Another thing: In India, there is a thing called Tax deducted at source (TDS). This cannot be avoided but you should be vigilant and collect the necessary certificates from the relevant firms. Here the firms are quite lax in this connection. You will have to be that much more vigilant. But be polite in dealings of this type as well.
Now about a few tall stories one gets to hear from the clients about delayed payments.
A work billed in March 2001 was paid in November only. Reason, because of 9/11- bombing in New York, all payment got delayed. The same client was the source of another tall story. I phoned and asked for the owner. He was at the bank, it seemed. His partner-wife? She too was at the same bank. His auditor? Bank, where else? How about the accounts clerk? You guessed it. Bank. Poor bank manager, he would have been really overwhelmed by such flood of visitors.
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